31 Days of Hallowe’en 2021, Day 23: Gaia [2021]

Eco-horror is usually something for which I have a soft spot, but when the pace moves slower than earth itself, I struggle to recommend it.

Gaia (2021) - IMDb
source: imdb

This is a shame because Gaia has all the hallmarks of something that sets itself apart: a less-trodden setting (South Africa), a non-traditional lead (a WOC), and SFX that are a mesmerising blend of practical and CGI, all packaged in a brisk runtime punctuated with quieter, subtler storytelling beats, rather than the amped-up, by-the-numbers creature feature I had been expecting. So, for that at least, credit is due.

Our story concerns Gabi (Monique Rockman), a park ranger in South Africa’s Garden Route forest region. She’s patrolling with her partner Winston (a very English-sounding but scene-stealing Anthony Oseyemi) when the duo see a drone that downs a short distance away. While retrieving it they get separated, with each having the sense that someone – or something – is tracking them. Things get more complex when Gabi runs into a pair of forest-dwelling survivalists – a father and son.

There’s no shortage of gorgeous shots of the scenery as it serves up a suitable platter for the film’s innovative practical effects, but there’s not much else on offer. The eco-centric themes are half-baked at best and contradictory at worst; there’s very little depth to the conflict among the characters so we never get much in the way of compelling acting, and the story itself just drags its way through endless episodes of repetitive – but technically well-executed – imagery. One for die-hard nature-worshippers, maybe.

Score: 🎃🎃

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